Agenda item

Agenda item

21/00218/FUL - 91-93 King George's Avenue, Watford


The Principal Planning Officer delivered her report.


            The Chair then invited Mrs June Wilkinson to address the committee.  Mrs Wilkinson explained that she lived adjacent to the proposed site and that her and sixty local residents had written to the council to voice their disapproval of the scheme.  She also voiced her disappointment at the lack of consultation. 

            Mrs Wilkinson went on to detail the concerns with the proposal:

·        The proposal was bulky and would result in overlooking.  The local area was predominantly two storey and this scheme would be out of character with the area.  She also commented adversely on the flat roof design.  The balconies would overlook residential gardens.  And the distances from neighbouring properties was less than the design guide recommended and contrary to Watford’s planning guidance. 

·        The applicant had not undertaken an ecology survey.  The residents commissioned such a survey which revealed bat activity on the site.  The report recommended an emergence study be carried out together with a study on nesting birds.  Watford’s core strategy policy, GI3 required proposals to conserve and enhance biodiversity and habitats and the application was contrary to this policy. 

·        There were no replacement spaces for the six private garages, which would be demolished to make way for the development.  The parking assessment failed to take account of this and there would be a possible resulting increase in street parking.  There were no disabled spaces. 

·        The red line boundary included Hanover Court, but did not serve notices on these addresses, as required by law. 

·        The bin store appeared to be insufficient in size as it would serve two blocks of flats.


Mrs Wilkinson acknowledged the need for more housing in the area, but the provision of new housing should not be at the expense of existing residents’ amenities or the environment.


            The Chair thanked Mrs Wilkinson and asked the Principal Planning Officer to comment of some of the issues she had raised. 

·        Screening – the site would be protected by hoarding and therefore screened during the construction works.  Long term there would be a boundary fence, usually six feet high.  This must all be approved by Planning under conditions. 

·        Overlooking – the balconies were now solid on the side to prevent overlooking onto number 95.  Regarding back to back distances, the distance was 27.5 metres.  It was felt that because of the existence of Hanover Court, there would be no worsening of the situation and therefore the distance was considered to be reasonable. 

·        Ecology – it was a legal requirement that bats are not disturbed, but this was outside of planning.  An ecology survey and bat survey had both been requested prior to any development taking place. 

·        Parking and existing garages – the garages were not included in the transport assessment, due to their limited impact on parking.  Most garages were used for storage and not for parking.  However, Watford’s parking standards were maximums. The maximum for this development would be nineteen and nine spaces for nine flats was considered reasonable. 

·        Consultation letters were sent out to Hanover Court.

·        Bin storage was subject to conditions, with the developer required to provide details prior to construction.

·        Disabled parking – the existing scheme was from 2004.  Because this was such a long time ago the council was unable to revisit this.  There was no policy requirement for the scheme to have disabled parking. 


            The Chair invited Mr Billy Pattison of Boyer Planning to address the committee. 


            Mr Pattison dealt with the following four areas:

·        Principle of development – the demolition of the existing building to optimise the number of urgently needed dwellings was acceptable.  Currently there was anti-social behaviour and fly tipping in the area of the site. 

·        Design of the proposals - He described the proposed dwellings, their design features and the surrounding parking and amenity. 

·        Impact on neighbouring residents – he explained how the building was designed to avoid adversely impacting the nearby residents, with a daylight and sunlight survey.  The balconies and windows had all been carefully considered to ensure that any overlooking did not worsen the position of residents.    

·        Provision of car parking – this was broken up into clusters, divided by soft and hard landscaping.  Mr Pattison echoed the officer’s comments that garages were often used for storage rather than parking as contemporary cars are often too large for older garages.  He concluded by describing the improved bin storage area. 


The Chair thanked Mr Pattison and invited Councillor Favour Ezefeidi, councillor for Holywell ward, to address the committee. 


Councillor Ezeifedi highlighted two issues.

·        Engaging with the community – she expressed surprise that the residents had only recently been informed about the committee. 

·        She highlighted the error that had already been pointed out and corrected by the Principal Planning Officer, stating there were no side facing windows to number 95.

            The councillor urged the committee to reject the proposal. 


The Chair thanked Councillor Ezeifedi and asked the Principal Planning Officer to clarify what notices and consultation had taken place.  It was explained that the initial consultation was February 2021, amendments to the scheme circulated in April 2021 and the notifications that the matter was coming to committee were sent out on 21 July.


The committee debated the issues and most members stated that they were very unimpressed with the design and did not support the application in its current format.  


There was a lengthy debate with some councillors wishing to refuse the application, but unsure if there were sufficient grounds.  The debate focussed on the following:

·        Bulky, plain and uninspiring design. 

·        Flat roof out of character with the area.

·        Rectangular, monolithic design, with large blank walls.

·        Did not comply with policy UD1 for a “beautiful and sustainable” design. 

·        Loss of privacy for neighbours. 

·        Adverse effect on the ecology. 

·        Two storeys would be preferable to three in this area. 


Councillor Bell proposed a motion to refuse and advice was sought from the Head of Planning and Development if there were sufficient grounds to refuse.  Opinion was provided that there were but the proposed motion needed more detail.  To assist the committee, the Principal Planning Officer provided a suggested wording for the motion.             


The Chair moved the recommendation to refuse section 73 application for the variation of condition 8 of planning permission 19/01411/VAR.  The committee voted unanimously. 



            that the application be refused for the following reasons:

1.      By virtue of the form, flat roof, siting, bulk, lack of design detailing and large blank flank walls, the development would be of an incongruous architectural design, dominant and overbearing visually in streetscene and out of keeping with the character and appearance of the area. The proposed development fails to meet the requirements of policies UD1 of the Watford Local Plan Core Strategy, paragraph 7.3.4 of the Watford Residential Design Guide. The development would fail to create a high quality, beautiful and sustainable buildings and is contrary to paragraphs 126, 130 and 134 of the NPPF. This harm would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the development when assessed against paragraphs 11 (d) (ii) of the NPPF.


2.      The development would create unreasonable adverse impacts to amenity of neighbouring properties. By virtue of its appearance, position, depth and height the proposed development would have relationships to neighbouring properties contrary to guidance of 7.3 of the Residential Design Guide. The development would create visual dominance and an overbearing sense of enclosure to occupiers of No.95 King Georges Avenue and would result in unreasonable overlooking and loss of privacy to properties at Nos.12 to 28 Cassiobridge Road. The adverse impact to neighbours is contrary to policies SS1 and UD1 of the Watford Local Plan Core Strategy 2006-31 and sections 7.3 of the Residential Design Guide 2016.


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